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Jeff Houck

The Tampa Tribune’s food writer since 2005, Jeff Houck covers the way people live through their food. He also hosts the Table Conversations food podcast and believes that everything crunchy is good.

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The Sip: Dawn Heidemann Represents Tampa in New York City At The ‘Bartending Olympics’

Posted Jun 4, 2013 by Jeff Houck

Updated Jun 4, 2013 at 11:41 AM

Dawn Heidemann

In 2004, Dawn Heidemann was laid off from her management job at Capital One in Tampa after 6 ½ years.

In addition to severance, she was given career guidance, including a class that asked, “What Do You Want To Be?”

Being a bartender sounded fun. She had no hospitality experience, but it had to be more creative than managing a bank’s call center.

So Heidemann went to bartending school, eventually landing a job at a sports bar in Clearwater named Marbles. From there she worked behind the bar at the Paradise Lakes clothing-optional resort south of Tampa.

“The uniforms were very small,” she said.

But her expertise blossomed after she landed at Bern’s Steak House, making syrups and juices in-house for the high-volume bar. She later built her knowledge of dessert wine pairings while managing the restaurant’s Harry Waugh Dessert Room.

Heidemann, 34, now works at Fly Bar & Restaurant in Tampa and is one of the founding members of the local Left Coast Bartenders Guild which holds the enormous Repeal Day Party in Ybor City and last weekend’s Tiki Party on St. Pete Beach.

Yesterday and today, she has been competing against 20 contestants at the Diageo World Class U.S. Finale in New York City, which tested her culinary creativity, her palate and her mixology craftsmanship in what many call the Bartending Olympics. The winner is scheduled to be announced later today.


Diageo Group

Challenges included blind tastings, food pairings and making cocktails, including one classic drink and one cocktail that reflects the 1970s or 1980s. For her classic drink, she made a Rosita with tequila, dry and sweet vermouth, Campari and Angostura bitters. For the second, she made an apricot cocktail reminiscent of the wine coolers that were popular during those years.

As one of only four women in the finals, she hopes her participation inspires others to compete.


Dawn Heidemann

“It stretches my creativity,” Heidemann told me on Friday before she left for the competition. “Something like this pushes me beyond my comfort level. I like to do it and I think it’s good for me.”

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